Human rights and civil liberties are an integral part of democracy. Without these crucial freedoms, democracy just becomes a fictitious event that is staged after a repetitive five-year interval,it becomes a means to an end rather than an end in itself. In recent years, unfortunately, it has become a norm to measure the healthiness of a democracy by the voter turnout at general and local elections, as well as referendums. This perspective is sadly a dangerous, lamentable and easily manipulative approach. If democracy is seen as an event rather than a process then it simply becomes a PR campaign. It provides a gateway for anti-democratic forces in various parts of the world to make their nation-states appear democratic rather than establish democracy in its literal sense and thereby, seek hollow legitimacy and a false mandate. For example, Egypt’s military rulers recently staged an election in an attempt to make their country look much more presentable. But most would agree that an election hardly makes a country democratic by itself, especially when crucial human rights and civil liberties are being relentlessly oppressed in a country like Egypt. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who is the current military ruler of the country, called an election in which he imprisoned anyone who dared running against him in the contest. This is what happens when elections and referendums are taken as key indicators of the healthiness of a democracy — notorious leaders create farcical democratic occasions to simply please the international community, albeit unsuccessfully. It is therefore, imperative that other societal phenomena are also looked at when judging how democratic a society is. Take Pakistan for example, on the surface level it seems to be a well-functioning and representative state with local, provincial and federal elections. Its representative governances is also evident from the practice of checks and balances between the three institutions: legislature, executive and the judiciary. All of these three seem to be keeping a watchful eye on each other. However, as soon as one looks below the surface the depressing reality comes forth in the most awful manner. Some of the most important components that make a representative state are either being suppressed or are completely non-existent. In other words, every governmental and non-governmental department ought to exercise the concept of constitutionalism, which refers to the idea that there are certain “limits on the powers of government institution” The press, for instance, is facing unlawful pressure from certain anonymous institutions. This is highlighted by the fact that the distribution of one English newspaper has been disrupted in certain parts of the country — time and time again. Curtailing freedom of speech is intrinsically contradictory to democratic principles which Pakistan claims to exhibit. While it is true that some press establishments exercise a bias through their Editorials and Op-Eds, it simply means that they are representing a point of view. Representing a perspective should not warrant the restriction of freedom of speech, especially not in a Republic. Similarly, every institution must adhere to the constitution, regardless of how supreme or noble it is in the eyes of the public. Amnesty International noted in its 2013 The State of World’s Human Rights’ report that “security forces continued to act with impunity” despite their involvement in “human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests” and enforces disappearances. This highlighted the very obvious fact that some authorities seem to exist above and beyond the reach of rule books, a practice that is inherently undemocratic. Amnesty International’s comments illustrate that there are some institutions that have a profound disregard for the constitution and thereby go beyond their legal power and authority. In other words, every governmental and non-governmental department ought to exercise the concept of constitutionalism, which refers to the idea that there are certain “limits on the powers of government institutions”. People must be allowed to exercise their human rights and civil liberties, such as press freedom, to the most ultimate level because that is what it means to live in a democracy; otherwise, it is nothing more than an illusion. Additionally, institutions must not act in an ultra vires manner. Only then will we be able to call Pakistan a truly democratic country. The writer is the author of Diary of a Foreigner: Thoughts on Brexit. He Tweets at@muhammedRaza786 and can be contacted at muhammedHussain1998@Gmail.com Published in Daily Times, July 22nd 2018.